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Children’s Day in Japan

April 23, 2008

Children’s Day in Japan

Kodomo no hi (Children’s Day) is observed in Japan on May 5th. The event is celebrated by hanging carp streamers (koi-nobori) and displaying samurai dolls and helmets (kabuto) in and around the home.

Kodomo no hi was originally the day that Japanese families would pray for the health, strength and future success of their sons. This holiday said to have originated in ancient China as Tango no Sekku which was held on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The Chinese believe that the 5th month is one for purification and rituals were performed during the month to ward off evil spirits thus protecting the crops and people. It is unclear when this holiday was adopted in Japan but I have read that ancient Samurai families began the tradition of displaying samurai dolls and helmets (kabuto) to protect their sons as early as 600AD.

In 1948 the day was declared a national holiday and was renamed “Children’s Day”. Today the holiday celebrates the happiness of all children, both boys and girls.

Over the years, the carp streamers have come to symbolize this day and almost every home and business will be flying a koi-nobori. You may also see the amazing sight of koi-nobori stretched, row upon row, across various rivers and canals throughout Japan. It is said that because the carp can swim upstream in heavy currents it represents strength and the courage needed to overcome hardships in life.

Photo Credit: Personal Collection & Flickr, carp streamers